FOR FRIDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Luke 19:1-10
“For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10; New Revised Standard Version)
As a child, I love singing the song about Zacchaeus, the “wee little man … who climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see.” As a “vertically challenged” kid who loved climbing tree, I really identified with this guy.
While I climbed trees just for fun and adventure, Zacchaeus had a more pressing reason – he wanted to see Jesus. Zacchaeus thought he was seeking out a way to see the Lord. What a surprise it must have been to find out that all this time Jesus was already looking for him.
“To seek out” and “to save” both indicate the initiative that God takes to bring hope and healing to our lives. Since God first loved us, we are can now have the ability to love God in return. God’s grace is afforded us even before we begin to look for God. “We love” claims the chorus, “because God first love us.”
PRAYER: Your Love, O God, has embraced and upheld me, long before I ever knew who you were. May my actions, attitude and words this day, faithfully respond to all that you have already done for and in me. Amen.
FOR WEDNESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Romans 8:1-17
“It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” (Romans 8:16; New Revised Standard Version)
“The whole message of Christianity is contained in this statement,” writes Paul Tillich. “When a child has a moment that we could call a moment of grace, he suddenly does the good freely, without command, and more than had been commanded; happiness glows in his face. He is balanced within himself, without enmity, and is full of love.”
There is a delightful story about a father and son who had gone on an annual camping trip for years. When the son had become a man, during their annual camping trip, he said, “Dad, I don’t need you anymore.” (The father thought, “I could have gone all weekend without hearing THAT.”) But then the son continued, “but I want you!”
The utmost joy of relating to God is found when we no longer strive to do right because we think we “need to” or that we “have to”, but because we “want to”.
PRAYER: Help me, Heavenly Father, to discover the true happiness of loving you freely and fully. Amen.
FOR TUESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6; New Revised Standard Version)
This chapter offers us a beautiful description of love. Here’s a test to see whether or not your life is filled with such love. Try putting YOUR name in each place the word LOVE is indicated. Here is how this passage would sound like for me:
“PAUL is patient; PAUL is kind; PAUL is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. PAUL does not insist on [his] own way; PAUL is not irritable or resentful; PAUL does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.”
When you put your name in the place of LOVE, how does it sound? When I do this, I know that in many places it makes me cringe. I always realize how much I still need to grow before I’ll ever begin to be what John writes in his letter: “perfect in love” (1 John 4:18)
PRAYER: Guide me, Loving Lord, to let your Spirit fill my heart so that we might all be bound in the unity of your love. Amen.
FOR WEDNESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
“Therefore, since it is by God’s mercy that we are engaged in this ministry, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1; New Revised Standard Version)
Sometimes, it is such a struggle to hold onto hope. When life wears you down, your relationships become strained and the disappointments of life dry up your spirit to go on. In such seasons you wonder how it is possible to “not lose heart.”
This verse gives us a clue how we can avoid giving into despair – by staying “engaged” in our ministry. When I focus too much only on my personal woes, I become selfish, whiny and preoccupied with myself. When I pay more attention to responding to my call to serve God and others, my troubles do not weigh me down.
PRAYER: Merciful God, thank you for calling me into this place of service. Renew my heart so that our joy may be full together. Amen.
FOR TUESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Isaiah 55
“Pay attention, come close now, listen carefully to my life-giving, life-nourishing words.” (Isaiah 55:3a; The Message)
All the demands of the world can take its toll on our spirits. As the many items on our To-Do lists increase, how easily we can be sucked into a multi-tasking mode which causes us to miss out on God’s “life-giving” and “life-nourishing” words. My Grandpa Jones uses to warn “if you are too busy to pray, you are too busy!”
Isaiah 55 offers us an invitation to abundant life. However, to fully experience the blessings God has prepared for us, we need to be willing to draw near to God so that we might “listen carefully.” We cannot give our full attention when we are so distracted by everything else. To stop the madness in our lives, we are invited to trust in God, experiencing the grace found in being present and listening in love.
PRAYER: “O Sabbath rest of Galilee! Drop thy still dews of quietness till all our strivings cease; take from our souls the strain and stress, and let our ordered lives confess the beauty of thy peace.” Amen [adapted from “Serenity” by John Greenleaf Whittier, United Methodist Hymnal #400]
FOR MONDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Exodus 3:1-12
Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people . . . I have heard their cry . . . Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them.” (Exodus 3:7-8; New Revised Standard Version)
The old spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” resonates with so many of us as we go through life. When the struggles of life seem to get the best of us, we tend to hide behind our forced smiles and offer a hollow “Oh, just fine” when others ask how we are doing. The pain from isolating ourselves from others is compounded as we sometimes feel abandoned even by God.
However, the truth of the matter is found in the small phrase added to the chorus of this old spiritual – “nobody knows . . . but Jesus.” Even when we feel all alone in our sorrow, the assurance from God’s Word is that God hears our cries and knows our suffering. Better yet, God has come to bring deliverance into our lives. In such times, we can still proclaim: “Glory, Hallelujah!”
PRAYER: Loving Lord, too often we allow my fleeting feelings to obscure the truth of your abiding presence and care. As we receive the blessed gift of your assurance and care, lead us to lift our hearts and sing “Glory, Hallelujah” all day long. Amen.
FOR TUESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: Genesis 32:22-32
“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.” (Genesis 32:24; New Revised Standard Version)
I’ll always remember and cherish the most helpful image of God given to me by Bill Mallard while attending Candler School of Theology. God is like a father who will get down on the floor and wrestle with his child. While the child knows he cannot prevail over the father, the dad cares enough to allow the child to “get in a few punches.”
Keeping our relationships strong and vital can be hard work at times. We have to struggle through times of misunderstandings and confusion. Yet, our God is big enough to handle any question our aching heart cries out and God cares enough to hold on to us, wrestling with us “until daybreak” when we’ll walk away limping but assured of God’s abiding presence.
PRAYER: Heavenly Father, Caring Dad, what a comfort it is to feel your loving embrace, even when I struggle to believe. Thanks for not giving up on me. Help me to learn more of Your patient love so that I might share it freely with others. Amen.
FOR MONDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Peter 3:5-13
“But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.” (2 Peter 3:13; New Revised Standard Version)
Waiting is never easy. We sigh, we groan, we tap our foot with frustration, we watch the clock bemoaning all the time we are wasting. One report claims that the average American spends two to three years of his or her life waiting in line. I think I may be above-average because I feel like I have had to wait forever for some things.
I wonder how my attitude might change during those times I have to wait if I would spend them in prayer, communing with God who longs to bring renewal and hope to my life and the world.
Earlier in this letter of Peter, he gives us a helpful suggestion on how to use our time waiting for the future of God: “make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with sisterly and brotherly kindness, and such kindness with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).
PRAYER: Ever-patient God of Grace, when I get angry from having to wait a moment or two, remind me how patient you have been with me through the years. Help me learn how to give others enough space and time to come to You as well. Amen.
FOR THURSDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: 2 Corinthians 1:12-22
“For in him every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” For this reason it is through him that we say the “Amen,” to the glory of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:20; New Revised Standard Version)
Through the years, I’ve heard so many people describe God in a negative way. Somehow they have gotten the idea that God is nothing but a great big NO – squashing any fun in life, filling our hearts with shame, not letting us do what we want to do.
Yet, according to this passage “every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” Have you ever heard the saying: “Whenever a door closes in our life, God opens a window for us”? Focus your mind today on all the truths of God which exclaim “YES” – love, joy, peace, kindness, hope and healing. Let your day be “stamped with the Yes of Jesus” (The Message).
PRAYER: Open the windows of my soul, Loving Lord, so that the life-giving winds of your healing Spirit may enter in. Amen.
FOR WEDNESDAY TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING: James 1:1-15
“But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15; New Revised Standard Version)
Do you remember how the late Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine tried to excuse any of his wrongs by exclaiming: “The devil made me do it!” In the scriptures, the Letter of James notes the true source of our ill-fated actions as our “own desire.” In other words, we have no one to blame but ourselves. Author Robert Fulghum concedes that while the devil may have first made him do it, “after that I did it on my own.”
John Wesley concludes in his Notes: “We are therefore to look for the cause of every sin, IN, not OUT OF ourselves.” While there are often extenuating circumstances in our lives that might lure us into wrongdoing, the bottom line is OUR decision to nurture and give birth to OUR wrong desires. How much better our lives would be if we would just keep our hearts focused on God’s desire.
PRAYER: God, you know me completely. Forgive me for my tendency to blame others for the faults which I have allowed to take hold in my life. Open my heart to the righteousness of your Spirit each and every day. Amen.